What is a Mute Swan?

Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards

Known scientifically as Cygnus olor, the mute swan is a type of swan that gets its name by being much less noisy than most other types of swans. Besides its territorial grunting and hissing, the noisiest part of the mute swan's life happens while it is flying. It belongs in the Anatidae family, along with a number of other water fowl, such as the goose and the duck. These types of birds can be found in or around bodies of water, such as lakes and ponds, snacking on nearby vegetation, or swimming with its mate.

These swans are considered to be mostly monogamous because they tend to stick with the same mate most of their lives. The male, called a cob, and the female, called a pen, also generally keep the same nest every year, unless they believe that their home is being threatened. When threatened, the cob will put on an aggressive display in an attempt to chase away any possible predators.

He will put his neck and head back while raising his wings and hissing at the intruder. This display is called busking. From the time that the eggs are laid until the young birds are able to fly, some parents may also go as far as attacking other animals or even people to defend the nest.

A nest built by a mute swan can be quite large, often measuring roughly 4 feet (1.2 meters) in diameter, but some have been found to be much larger. New nests are constructed and old nests are repaired, if needed, in the early spring. These nests are typically a rough circle made out of local vegetation, such as weeds, grasses, and reeds. Usually, they will be built on the land, near a water source.

After a mute swan reaches three years of age, it is considered to be sexually mature, and it is ready to breed. Courtship rituals often begin late in the winter, typically around February. Afterwards, the female mute swan will lay anywhere from three to seven greenish colored eggs. The female will then incubate the eggs by sitting on them, while the male defends his family and nest. A little over one month after the eggs are laid, baby swans, referred to as cygnets hatch.

The cygnets are covered with a gray downy material when they are born, and the stay that way until they mature. Their bills and legs are a dark gray color. After about four months, most cygnets will begin to fly, and after about six months, they will finally leave the nest.

An adult mute swan looks very different than a hatchling. For one thing, they are much larger, sometimes growing up to 6 feet (183 centimeters) long. Often, these swans can be as tall as f4feet (122 centimeters) high, with a wingspan that can reach up to 94 inches (240 centimeters). The males of the species are typically a little larger than the females, and can weigh in at 25 pounds (10.5 kilograms).

As it grows up, an adult mute swan turns from a light gray to white. Its beak turns from dark gray to a bright orange, except for a black knob at the base, directly in front of its forehead. As with most swans, the mute swan is known for its long, graceful neck curved into an 'S' shape, especially while swimming.

The mute swan is originally native to many parts of Asia and Europe. Over the years, it has become naturalized in other parts of the world, including the United States, after it was introduced for ornamental purposes. In some parts of the United States, this swan is considered to be an invasive species, mostly because of its aggressiveness while defending it nest and young.

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